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So steer a course, a course for nowhere / And drop the anchor, my little empire - MrPutter: doing things the hard way, because it is there.
March 5th, 2012
04:24 am
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So steer a course, a course for nowhere / And drop the anchor, my little empire
So when I last posted, I closed out December with an eye on 2012, making the epigraph: "I can't wait for this next year to begin."


Some words are meant to be eaten.

So far, inasmuch as I'm concerned, 2012 can go die in a fire. Nothing much good has happened in my life, and it's mostly been a whole lot of shyte.

But I'm not here to talk about that: enough of 2012. Instead let us fast-forward four years to 2016. Specifically, May 1st, 2016. 50 months from today a few days ago (when I, *ahem*, started composing this post).


In the aforementioned missive in which I bid adieu to 2011, I promised an expansion on my plans to bike across Russia. The same plans that have been idling away on the back burner of "yeah, yeah, I'll get around to that someday" for a good FOURTEEN YEARS now.

Seriously, I hatched this plan shortly following my cross-Canada bike trip in the fall of 1997: for a length of time that's rapidly approaching half of my life, I've been planning to do this, but only in a time frame no more definite than "sometime before I die."


Well, no more*:



I has a plan! It's a nice long 5-year plan, but hey. And there's admittedly a lot of stuff at the end of said 5 years, and not so much at the beginning. But the part at the beginning is proceeding apace. Also as of a couple of days ago — precisely 10% of the way into that big green bar titled "Save Money" — I put the 5000th dollar into my specal bank account that I've set up for this, right on schedule. So by early 2016 I should have $50k (plus interest, but with interest rates at approximately zero, I'm not really paying much attention to that.)

With any luck, all that other stuff will happen according to schedule as well.

So come May 1st 2016, I embark on the red section of that Gantt chart, otherwise known as the "fun part":

(click for full-size Google map)

My plan has always been to start in the east, at Владивосток, and move west towards Europe. That way I get past all the difficult parts — with hundreds of km between towns and potentially unfinished highways and local politicians demanding bribes to "expedite" the processing of infractions of made-up-on-the-spot regulations and god knows what other obstacles — first, while I still have flexibility in both my budget and schedule.

Going across Canada west→east, then South America east→west has pretty much confirmed that this is the wrong way of doing it, and I'm sure I will regret it, but shrug. We'll see.

So ANYway, 14,473km later (according to Google, with a bit of manual tweaking where I know it's on crack, or is taking me via routes I don't really want to take), I end up in Portugal's Douro Valley, where I sure hope I will have enough unspent money left to gorge on some delicious, delicious port. (Russia's wine offerings I expect to be... underwhelming... compared to Chile's and Argentina's.)

14-and-a-half-thousand kilometres, at a rate of 80km a day, gives almost exactly 6 months. I'm sure I will be doing less than that at first, but hopefully a fair bit more once I really get into things. That has been my experience on the bike trips I've done in the past, anyway. And as always, I can always take the bus if I start falling behind; especially once I get into Europe. That 6-month schedule gets me to Budapest and then southern Europe, which is to say, warmer climes, by mid-September before the potentially cold weather sets in.

At any rate: 6 months later, after blowing whatever remains of my budget on Port, I guess I come home.

And, uh. Start planning for how I'm going to bike the Pan-American Highway. (Prudhoe Bay, AK to the Tierra del Fuego, baby!)


In the meantime, all I gotta do is figure out what I'ma do with my two antisocial cats for six months.






* After all, I've always said I hoped I died before I got old.

Current Location: T2N 1Y9
Current Mood: tiredtired
Current Music: Chumbawamba -- The Goodship Lifestyle
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From:frandroid
Date:March 6th, 2012 05:40 am (UTC)
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574km of road without a name!

What did you make your Gantt chart with?

Also, nothing prevents you from planning the pan-am now. =)
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From:mrputter
Date:March 9th, 2012 04:15 am (UTC)
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> road without

Yes and no. Much of that is the alluded-to Zilov Gap (also known as the Чита-to-Хабаровск section) on the Амур highway. (I have also mentioned this in passing before on this blog.)

A sufficiently determined Google search turns up much interesting info on this stretch of road; the short version is that although planned over a century ago, it lingered, unfinished, as no more than a muddy and barely-passable cart track — with a couple of unbridged and non-trivial river crossings — until about 10 years ago. At that time, Putin made it a grand plan to finish this gap in the newly-christened "Trans-Siberian Highway" and connect western Russia with the far-East. (Previous to that, my original plan for this trip had been to either bike along the railway right-of-way for a couple hundred km, or were that to prove infeasible, say "fuck it" and take the train itself over that section.)

It was "opened" by Putin in 2004, however said opening was largely symbolic, and much of the highway remained physically incomplete. The projected completion date was sometime in the Fall of 2010, however most recent accounts that I've read are that it still isn't quite there. (That construction status map I've posted dates to January 2010 and still shows a a couple hundred km either yet to be built or requiring reconstruction (the red and yellow sections).)

Having said that,
A) I expect it actually has a chance at being finished by mid-2016;
B) It is certainly passable in the meantime. The river crossings and other major obstacles are all done; it's just the paving and bringing it up to full highway standards that are pending. Every year, many thousands of cars navigate the route (apparently there's a fair cottage industry built up around flying to Владивосток, buying cheap Japanese cars fresh off the boat, taping cardboard all around them to "protect" them, and driving them back to Москва to sell at a significant mark-up. There is enough traffic that does this, if nothing else, to mean that there is a decent de-facto road in existence, even if it is not yet "finished".)

That section is, as Wikipedia indicates, actually technically Russian highway M58. It's just not (yet) recognized as such by Google Maps. (It's unclear to me whether it is or is not properly signed as such on the ground. Either way, it makes little practical difference.)

Other sections not having a name are just Google Maps being on crack and finding little secondary- and tertiary- roads that it wants to route me along to save a kilometer or two here and there. I've tweaked a few of them away manually, but couldn't be bothered to do it for all of them unless it involved a significant deviation from my intended route.

Edited at 2012-03-09 04:27 am (UTC)
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From:mrputter
Date:March 9th, 2012 04:43 am (UTC)
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> there is a decent de-facto road in existence

What a strange situation.

I just realized right now: the road exists de facto and the road exists de jure. But yet, the road doesn't exist.

If that isn't Russia for you, I don't know what is.
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From:mrputter
Date:March 9th, 2012 04:35 am (UTC)
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> make your Gantt chart with?

MS-Project 2010. (I just used the one at work, since I'm there all the time anyway. Yes it's one we got from TechSoup. Apologies if using it for personal use is breaking the terms of our agreement. Please don't report me. )


> nothing prevents you from planning

Well, other than not wanting to be distracted. One thing at a time, else I will fail at all of them. (Also, biking the Pan-American will involve obstacles far far more significant than does this trip. Including some political ones — Hi there, Mr. Kidnapper — the situation regarding which may change significantly in the next 10-15 years, rendering much planning I do now rather moot.)
From:reluctance
Date:March 6th, 2012 06:04 am (UTC)

Right on!

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Always righteous to see something leave the back burner. I pretty much have only two big bucket list pieces of unfinished business I have to resolve before I die -- mounting my textmode art exhibition in a gallery space somewhere, and implementing the text adventure game I started designing with Chris in Montreal in 2002 and, gosh, has it been a decade already?

It's all the more impressive to see people whose feats have real, physical and geographical obstacles in their path, and to see strategies for overcoming them. I have no such excuses for the lingering of mine 8)
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From:mrputter
Date:March 9th, 2012 04:40 am (UTC)

Re: Right on!

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Frankly, I have little to say in response to this, beyond terms of generic encouragement & support, and exhortations to do it including phrases along the lines of: "There's still time!"

I'm sure you've heard all of the above already.

But if not: hey, there's still time!
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